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Peters Wades Into Maori Seats Debate

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Winston Peters
Winston Peters

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has waded into the controversy over National's stance on the Maori seats, saying it is clear it will do anything to win power.

National's leader John Key yesterday admitted he told the Maori Party he was prepared to drop a policy to abolish the Maori seats.

"They've raised it with us on numerous occasions and I've made it quite clear to them it's not a bottom line for us," he told reporters on the campaign trail in Dunedin.

His admission followed repeated denials that he had given Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples' an assurance the policy would be dropped if National needed the Maori Party's support after the election.

Mr Sharples said Mr Key had made the comments in a relationship-building meeting between the two parties' leaders.

Asked about that during Tuesday night's leaders debate on TV One, Mr Key said: "I've never given that assurance. There is no formal agreement. I'm sorry, but he's got it wrong."

Labour leader Helen Clark yesterday said Mr Key's comment during the debate was "an outright fib" and Mr Peters today joined in the attack saying National appeared to have abandoned everything it had advocated since 2005 in a "desperate bid for power".

"Mr Key kept saying he had no deal with Pita Sharples and now he has had to admit it. New Zealanders have the right to know exactly what has been agreed to between the parties before the election.

"Running a country is different to playing the stock market or speculating in foreign currency. You can't keep changing your position when the future of race relations is at stake."

The Maori Party has a policy of entrenching the seats in law. It says they should never be abolished without Maori consent.

National's policy is that a process to abolish them should begin when all historic Treaty claims have been settled, which it hopes to achieve by 2014.

Mr Key yesterday said no deal had yet been cut with the Maori Party.

But Labour has used the latest development to again claim National's leader cannot be trusted. It has been running a strategy of trying to show Mr Key is "slippery" with the truth, and attacked him in Parliament last month when he admitted owning more Tranz Rail shares than he had previously acknowledged.

Mr Key held some of the shares while he was asking questions in Parliament about the railways.

He says he sold them all as soon as he knew a political issue was involved.

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